Senate acquits Trump in his second impeachment trial; 7 GOPS vote to convict; Rubio, Scott vote to acquit

In this screenshot taken from a congress.gov webcast, the U.S. Senate votes, 57-43, to acquit on the fifth day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 13, 2021. Source: congress.gov via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted on Saturday to acquit former President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol, concluding his second impeachment trial with the same verdict as his first impeachment.

In the 57-43 vote, seven Republicans joined every Senate Democrat and independent in support of convicting Trump.

Those GOP senators were Richard Burr of North Carolina; Bill Cassidy of Louisiana; Susan Collins of Maine; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Mitt Romney of Utah; Ben Sasse of Nebraska; and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Florida’s U.S. senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, both Republicans, were acquittal votes.

In the evenly divided Senate chamber — which has 48 Democrats, two independents who usually vote with them, and 50 Republicans — it would have taken at least 17 Republican senators voting for conviction to reach the required two-thirds vote.

Two of the Republicans who voted to convict, Burr and Toomey, have announced plans to retire next year. Three others, Collins, Cassidy, and Sasse, were re-elected to a new six-year term in November.

In a statement after the vote, Trump blasted the impeachment process as “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country,” and said that the movement he created “has only just begun.”

“We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future,” Trump said.

The U.S. House voted 232-197 on Jan. 13 to impeach Trump, just a week after the riot.

Saturday’s impeachment vote in the Senate followed several hours of closing arguments, which were delayed when House impeachment managers sought to subpoena at least one witness. That call for witnesses cleared a Senate vote, but was later dropped when both sets of lawyers agreed to add to the trial record a written statement by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican.

Herrera Beutler had tweeted about a conversation she had with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-Calif.), in which he told her about speaking by phone with Trump during the Capitol mayhem. She said McCarthy described Trump as siding with the rioters over lawmakers as the violence was unfolding.

Trump was charged with inciting the violent mob that lay siege to the U.S. Capitol , which disrupted the tallying of presidential Electoral College votes and resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer.

No other president had been tried on impeachment charges after leaving office, and no other president had faced impeachment twice. A conviction would have barred Trump from seeking public office again.

The arguments for and against convicting Trump were outlined over just five days this week.

Using graphic videos of the riot, previously undisclosed security footage, and clips of Trump’s speeches, the nine House lawmakers who served as prosecutors argued that the insurrection was the foreseeable result of the former president inflaming and encouraging his supporters not to accept the election results.

“President Trump must be convicted for the safety and security of our democracy and our people,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, (D-Md.), one of the managers, said.

Trump’s defense team argued that the House impeachment managers misconstrued Trump’s words, and that his calls for supporters to “fight” were no different from similar rhetorical calls from Democrats.

“In short, this impeachment has been a complete charade from beginning to end. The entire spectacle, a spectacle, has been nothing but the unhinged pursuit of a longstanding political vendetta against Mr. Trump by the opposition party,” Trump attorney Michael van der Veen said.

After the vote, Republican senators who opposed conviction also blasted the impeachment process, while Democrats said they were taking necessary action against a president who they said violated his oath of office.

“The real purpose of this trial was to tar and feather not just the rioters, but anyone who supported the former president and any senator who refuses to vote to convict,” Rubio said in a statement.

“Our greatest loyalty as Americans is to our Constitution and the freedoms and protections she provides us; elected officials swear a solemn oath to uphold and defend our Constitution,” said Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-Az.) in a statement. “Former President Donald Trump betrayed his oath willfully, as no president has before.”

Laura Olson
Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Florida Phoenix. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.